In the summer of 2013, Detroit Sound Conservancy conducted a successful Kickstarter project to start a Detroit music oral history project online. You can see and hear the project here. Below is the pitch as we conceived it in 2013.
There is no public oral history archive dedicated to Detroit music. We are building one. We are going to start with the “first responders” to the Detroit sound: Detroit music journalists. Detroit music journalists have been key archivists of Detroit sounds that have changed the world, from Motown to techno, blues to jazz, to so much more. They have documented the bands. They have interviewed the musicians. They tell the stories so the music lives. This project is for them. This is the Detroit Sound Conservancy’s first project.
Funds will be used to transcribe, digitize, and conserve oral history interviews that already exist in the private hands of Detroit music journalists. The overall budget for this project will be $5,000. This amount will provide for website design and hosting, as well as conservation of the tapes that will then be donated, en masse, to the Detroit Sound Conservancy in order to establish the vault.
These tapes reinforce the richness of the sonic history you know. These tapes also tell you musical stories you’ve never heard. The project website will also serve as a one-stop training center for conducting future oral histories about our aural culture. This project is a start to a process not an end in itself.
The lack of a public historical resource dedicated to Detroit music makes it difficult to advocate for needed cultural preservation of stories (from the likes of blues musician Bobo Jenkins to disco / techno godfather Ken Collier), artifacts (like the cassette tapes and clippings of Detroit music journalists), landmarks (like the United Sound Systems recording studio which is currently threatened by a highway service drive project) throughout our mighty musical city.
These current and former Detroit journalists have signed on to the project so far: Bart Bealmear (Rebel Route), Denise Dalphond, PhD (independent scholar), Hobey Echlin (former writer Metro Times), Larry Gabriel (Metro Times), Carleton S. Gholz, PhD (scholar and former writer Metro Times), Melissa Giannini (editor of NYLON Magazine andformer writer Metro Times), Brendan Gillen (former writer Metro Times), Robert Gorell (former writer Metro Times), Chris Handyside (Fell in Love With a Band: The Story of the White Stripes), W. Kim Heron (former writer Detroit Free Press, Metro Times, and DJ on WDET), Curtis Lipscomb (Kick), Keith Owens (Detroit blues historian), Fred Reif (Detroit blues historian), Brian Smith (former writer and music editor Metro Times), Khary Turner (former writer Metro Times), Walter Wasacz (former writer for Creem, Metro Times, currently Model D.), Susan Whitall (music writer for Detroit News, author Fever: The Fast Life and Mysterious Death of Little Willie John), John “Bileebob” Williams (Famzine).
We will be using the Pop Up Archive to help archive audio, create transcriptions, and produce meta-data to increase accessibility to the tapes.
Updated Summer 2014